In the midst of extraordinary tumult over the issue of abortion, the Supreme Court has finally issued a decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and simultaneously overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the two cases that established and maintained abortion as a right in the United States.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito declared.
Even before the 6-3 decision was made, the Dobbs’ case was set to be a historic one since it directly brought into question the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision as well as the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, Supreme Court precedents that created, then reaffirmed, the right to abortion.
The decision will amount to one of the lasting legacies of the former President Donald Trump, who nominated three of the justices who made up the majority — Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barret.
Alito’s opinion was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett. Thomas and Kavanaugh also filed concurring opinions, along with Chief Justice John Roberts.
The court’s liberal wing, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.
In an occasionally mocking tone, the dissent called the decision “catastrophic.”
“Today’s decision strips women of agency over what even the majority agrees is a contested and contestable moral issue. It forces her to carry out the State’s will, whatever the circumstances and whatever the harm it will wreak on her and her family,” the dissent states.
But the decision makes the constitutional heart of the matter clear.
“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” Alito wrote.
Pro-life advocates hailed the decision.
Country owes a HUGE debt of thanks to all the pro-life human rights activists, scholars, lawyers, politicians, parents, pastors, health care workers, etc., who labored for 50 long and hard years to bring the country to this moment of liberation from Roe. THANK YOU.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) June 24, 2022
I spent quite a few cold January days marching in Washington, dreaming of this result. Many others spent many more days. I don’t know where Bob Dornan is today, but I’m thinking, especially, of him.
— Jason E. (@JaeDog105) June 24, 2022
OUR PRAYERS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED! This is the moment we’ve been waiting DECADES for – Roe v. Wade is OVERTURNED! THANK YOU to every Pro-Life activist who has helped make this victory possible, and THANK YOU to President Trump for nominating 3 FANTASTIC Pro-Life justices. HUGE win!!
— Ronny Jackson (@RonnyJacksonTX) June 24, 2022
Today, the right to life is protected.
This day was in part because the people chose Donald Trump as their president and he nominated pro-life Supreme Court justices.
— Steven Cheung (@CaliforniaPanda) June 24, 2022
In 2018, Mississippi passed the Gestational Age Act (HB 1510), which prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, except for cases of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality, the Legal Information Institute of Cornell reported.
But the day that HB 1510 was to go into effect, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of the act. The clinic also asked for an emergency temporary restraining order.
The case made its way up to the Supreme Court, and arguments were heard in December 2021.
In arguments, attorneys for Mississippi argued that the Constitution does not provide a right to abortion, so a state can freely ban the procedure at any time during the pregnancy.
“Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey haunt our country. They have no basis in the Constitution. They have no home in our history or traditions. They’ve damaged the democratic process. They’ve poisoned the law. They’ve choked off compromise,” Stewart declared during the oral arguments.
However, Jackson Women’s Health argued that the right to abortion is grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. Physical autonomy and body integrity are elements of liberty that are protected by the Constitution’s due process clause, the clinic argued.
“It’s the textual protection in the Fourteenth Amendment that a state can’t deprive a person of liberty without due process of law, and the Court has interpreted liberty to include the right to make family decisions and the right to physical autonomy, including the right to end a pre-viability pregnancy,” Julie Rikelman argued on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health.
But the fact that the precedent of Roe v. Wade was so directly challenged and could be overturned made this case blow up.
The threat to Roe was apparent, but it became an even bigger issue when a draft opinion showing that the court voted to strike down Roe v. Wade was leaked.
Politico reported and posted the draft in what the outlet called an “unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision that guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision — Planned Parenthood v. Casey — that largely maintained the right.”
The draft was by no means a final decision, but it sent a shock through the nation and sparked frantic protests by abortion supporters.
The leak and the resulting chaos particularly made everything more difficult for the court.
“We are becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don’t like,” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said at a judicial conference in May, according to Reuters. “We can’t be an institution that can be bullied into giving you just the outcomes you want. The events from earlier this week are a symptom of that.”
Roberts said that the court was still operating normally as it made its decision, though.
“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way,” Roberts said in a statement.
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